Sports junkies looking for a fix will be able to find it 24 hours a day at KRLA-AM (1110) starting Dec. 1, while fans of the station's current talk-radio format will have to hunt elsewhere on the dial for their favorite shows.
The change was put in motion by Viacom's decision to sell the station to the Walt Disney Co., which--while awaiting federal approval of the deal--will begin managing the operation at the beginning of the month. When it does take over Dec. 1, Disney will turn KRLA into an ESPN Radio outlet, featuring sports talk and sporting events all day, all week. Additionally, KRLA's call letters will change once the sale is finalized next year, though the new ones have yet to be determined.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday November 6, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 3 inches; 82 words Type of Material: Correction
Radio title and owner--An article about KRLA-AM (1110) in Friday's Calendar mistakenly said that Erik Braverman would become general manager of the station when Walt Disney Co. begins operating it Dec. 1 as the first stage of Disney's acquisition of the station. Braverman will become program director at KRLA while continuing in the same capacity at Disney-owned KABC-AM (790). Bill Sommers remains president and general manager of all the local Disney-owned radio stations. Additionally, KLOS-FM (95.5) is owned by Disney, not Infinity Broadcasting, as stated in the article.
The imminent change has the station's current personalities searching for new homes.
"I'm considering three different situations at the moment," all in the Los Angeles area, said Michael Jackson, host of his namesake morning talk show, and a local radio institution. "I'm truly excited by what's been offered, but I can't say anything yet." One offer, from KABC-AM (790), where Jackson had been for 32 years before going to KRLA two years ago, was on the table, but Jackson said they couldn't come to terms.
"I leave this station with great regret," he added. "Nobody blames the station. It's not like they fired everybody. It was the FCC's doing."
When Viacom and CBS joined a little more than a year ago, in a $35-billion merger that was the largest in media history, the deal gave Viacom one television station and eight radio stations in the Los Angeles area--one more property than the Federal Communications Commission allows. So Viacom's radio subsidiary, Infinity Broadcasting Corp., put KRLA on the market earlier this year, filing paperwork with the FCC Oct. 26 that initiated the sale to Disney, which owns ABC, the majority of ESPN, and baseball's Angels and hockey's Mighty Ducks.
"We knew that eventually it had to be sold," Jackson said. "It had been rumored for about a year. I thought quite honestly they'd be able to stall. We worked at it as though it was going to be forever."
Disney will take over the station under a Local Market Agreement, an FCC provision that allows the purchaser to operate the station while awaiting approval from that agency, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department. Bill Sommers, president and general manager of the four local Disney-owned radio stations, said the deal should be final by March.
KRLA currently broadcasts some sports programming, including horse racing, Kings hockey and San Diego Chargers football games. Those contracts will run through the sports' seasons, with KRLA's new management deciding whether to renew the contracts.
But time is running out for the station's non-sports programming.
Dr. Toni Grant, the pioneer of radio call-in psychology, moves Nov. 13 from KRLA to KABC, where she started her show in the mid-1970s. She currently airs noon-3 p.m. weekdays, but will move to 9 p.m.-midnight at KABC. Chef Jamie Gwen, whose cooking show "ChefTalk" last ran on KRLA Sundays 6-7 p.m., will move to KIEV-AM (870) this Sunday, when the show will begin airing from 9-10 a.m.
"I had a terrific run on KRLA. It was an incredible station with a terrific lineup and a great group of people," Gwen said, praising station management for handling "the changeover very kindly."
"I really do feel all the hosts have been treated with great consideration and respect," such as being allowed to tell their listeners where they're moving to, said Gwen, whose program offers cooking advice, listener call-ins and celebrity chef appearances.
Coincidentally, she had already been planning her move to KIEV, for a chance at a larger audience. Meanwhile, hosts of other shows are still working to relocate.
The deal involving KRLA also includes the sale of an AM station in Sacramento, KRAK, which will become a Radio Disney outlet--like KDIS-AM (710)-- featuring music and contests for the 12-and-under set, Sommers said. But Disney is especially interested in having an ESPN station in the L.A. area, Sommers added, because it plans to open an ESPN SportsZone sports bar at the California Experience, the new Disney theme park in Anaheim.
In addition, the new station will offer chances at cross-promotions with Infinity station KLOS-FM (95.5), whose hard-rock format meshes with the predominantly young and male audience of ESPN, said Erik Braverman, program director at KABC, who will become general manager overseeing both KABC and KRLA.
"Once the approvals are done, we can officially say what some of the plans are," Braverman said. "The company has made no secret we want to have a presence in Los Angeles. It's obvious Los Angeles is a very important market for any radio company. ESPN is synonymous with sports. There's a huge identifiable brand name here. We believe there is a lot of sports stuff out there, but nothing with the ESPN banner behind it. And we think it's extremely strong."
In addition to sporting events, the ESPN Radio station will feature call-in and interview shows hosted by Dan Patrick and others known primarily for their work on ESPN's cable TV network. But Jackson bemoaned the loss of a distinctive voice from L.A. airwaves.
"Any time you lose a station like KRLA, there's a hole, there's a gap," he said. While he said KRLA's onetime rival, KABC, features "mostly conservative talk-show hosts, our station was open to a variety of views. I think there's room for another talk station.
"I can't see how the city needs another sports station," Jackson added.
As Gwen put it, "I think talk radio is important. It gives the listenership a forum. It offers different views and perspectives. . . . We all hate to see something wonderful go."
The Sports Story
* Can Los Angeles handle another all-sports radio station? Larry Stewart details KRLA's changeover. D6